How to introduce a new cat scratcher

Learning to think like your cat will make your co-living easier and more enjoyable. If your cat uses your sofa or other pieces of furniture for scratching even after you provided a scratching post, our article might give you some ideas about what to do. 

If you already live with a cat, you might know well why and how cats scratch. In case you’re still learning about cat’s natural behaviours we’d like to highlight some important facts about scratching. Many of us know why it is essential for cats to scratch and it’s probably more than clear that they will destroy our sofas, chairs, textured wallpaper or carpets if we don’t provide them with well made and sturdy scratchers.

We know cats need to scratch for multiple reasons. Before we can select a scratcher, we need to understand the cat’s behaviour. Cats scratch with their front claws by dragging them downward. Not all cats behave the same way so it’s useful to observe your cat before you select one. Some cats will scratch by lying down and pulling their body weight along the floor. Some cats like to stand while scratching, but most often it’s a combination of different positions. If you’re selecting a scratcher for a young kitten, you have an advantage, because your kitten hasn’t formed a habit yet and it’s easier to teach them where you like them to scratch.

Ideally you need multiple scratching posts around the house to avoid the damage of your furniture.  

Unvarnished woods and tree barks are the most natural surfaces for cats to scratch. They provide an ideal level of resistance to the action. Many cats nowadays have limited or no access to outdoors. Cats will always find the most sturdy and suitable piece in your home and use it. This is why sofas are such a popular piece of furniture for cats. There are cats with access to outdoor areas, but even these cats need to have scratching posts around your home. They will use trees in your garden, but many cats often choose the comfort and safety of the home and feel more relaxed about maintaining their claws in a secure environment.

There is another important fact to remember. Scratching can also be used as a precursor for play or often as an attention-seeking tool by the more manipulative and social individuals. If your cat is scratching your sofa, because she/he is bored or is seeking your attention and you react to it, your cat might continue acting this way, because you paid so much desired attention! In this case (make sure it’s not for claw maintenance) react positively only when your cat is scratching the post provided and ignore when your cat is using your furniture (unless your cat is causing a damage).

If you kitty is bored, scratching your sofa might also be a signal that your cat needs some love or wants a little play with you. Perhaps it’s a call for treats or it’s time to eat and this is the way your cat communicates with you.

We noticed that one of the street cats we regularly feed, does her scratching ritual just before feeding. Cats will often scratch vigorously in the presence of their owners or other cats as a sign of territorial confidence.

Some cats are highly demanding and sometimes you have to ignore them, but please make sure your cat is not trying to tell you that something is wrong or is hungry. Make sure you provide your cat with fun toys, furniture and enjoyable activities. Some cats prefer to play with us, humans, and it’s good if you can find a time to play with your cat few times a day – it’ll keep them healthy, happy and ready to nap again. This is particularly important with kittens and young, energetic cats.

If your cat continues to scratch your sofa for the claw maintenance, you might need to cover the sofa with anti-scratch tape. We heard that Sticky Paws On A Roll scratch deterrent for cats works well.

What if this happens:
I’ve bought a scratcher or scratching post, but my cat doesn’t use it.

If the scratching post wobbles under the pressure, your cat may not find it very attractive and won’t use it. Another reason can be a place. Placing it in an area that is convenient to you but not visited by your cat will guarantee that it will be ignored.

Some cats will use your new scratcher immediately, but some cats may take time to use it. If your cat has already developed a habit of scratching somewhere else, a new scratcher might be ignored until a positive connection with the new scratcher is made.

There are a number of ways to ensure your cat makes use of any available scratching post.

It is important for your cat to connect the new scratcher with a positive feeling, sometimes your cat might need a help with it.

You may try to include the scratcher in your play, in a simple predatory-type game involving a flying toy around the scratcher will encourage the claws to make contact with the surface. Often this will be sufficient to encourage further visits.

Please don’t force your cat to use it by holding your cat’s paws and placing them forcefully onto the scratcher, it might result in avoiding it completely. Make it a play and give positive reinforcement (verbal and/or favourite treats are great!) every time you notice a contact with the scratcher. Remember consistency, repetitions and positive encouragement is the key.

If your cat reacts to catnip, you may try to sprinkle some on the scratcher. You can also try a synthetic version of it called Feliway in the form of a spray or diffuser.

Place the scratcher where your cat likes to relax or sleep. You can try a place near a window or door. Placing it in a room your cat normally doesn’t go will not work.

Please never punish your cat for scratching where you don’t want your cat to scratch! It’s important to remember that your cat is not doing this just to be naughty. If the motivation is claw maintenance then you are punishing a natural behaviour – very confusing for the cat – or if your cat is scratching excessively due to anxiety and insecurity – when you’re introducing a new furry member or moving houses – then punishment will add to its distress and probably make the situation worse.

Many cat owners trim their cat’s claws to avoid scratch marks. Please remember that it is not recommended to trim your cat’s claws if your cat has access to outdoors. Your cat may need those sharp claws for defence against attack and to get out of trouble. We hope it won’t happen, but we can never have a guarantee.

If you bought a scratcher from us and your cat doesn’t use it, please get in touch. If you want to add any comment to this article or share your experience, we will be very happy to hear from you.

We wish you furry baby happy scratching while your furniture stays safe!

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